County councils face big PR cuts

County council PR teams are to be cut by up to a third before April 1998 as local authorities gear up for the third wave of reorganisation of local government across England.

County council PR teams are to be cut by up to a third before April

1998 as local authorities gear up for the third wave of reorganisation

of local government across England.



The reorganisation, which was ordered by the previous Government, will

see ten county councils lose control of around 20 towns. New local

authorities will be created in April to run the towns, and county

councils will have to hand over on average a third of their budgets to

the new councils.



In preparation for the budget cuts, county councils are reducing their

staff numbers and the salaries and responsibilities of some of the posts

they will retain. The new councils, known as unitary councils, are

expanding their press and PR teams but in many cases those heading the

teams do not report directly to the chief executive.



In Berkshire County Council, five of the eight-strong PR team face

redundancy because the council will be abolished in the reorganisation,

and replaced by six new councils.



Three Berkshire staff have found unitary jobs. ’Most of the new

authorities are expanding their departments,’ said head of

communications Gayle Rossiter.



But she said there was no equivalent to her post among the unitaries,

where top PR jobs, unlike hers, do not report to the council chief

executive.



At Lancashire County Council, the centralised publications, PR and press

team will lose six staff from a total of 60. Salaries for other posts

have been cut, by pounds 3,000 in one case.



’It will mean a reduction in the amount of information available to the

public,’ said Andrew Robinson, county PR officer. ’Local government has

a bad reputation for communications and this process can only make it

worse,’ he said.



Essex County Council sees its press and PR team cut from nine to six,

and the top communications post downgraded.



At Hereford and Worcester County Council, the department will lose 25

per cent of its pounds 140,000 budget. But following the reorganisation,

when the council will be renamed Worcestershire County Council, the head

of PR, Kevin Galloway, will report directly to chief executive Rob

Sykes, rather than the head of legal and administrative services.



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